When we sat down for a chat with Vincent, Bernie and Andrew – past and present SMU staff involved in SMU’s sustainability initiatives – at SMU’s B3 bistro, I was introduced to one of the staff members as ‘the mint guy’. “The mint from our garden lasts for two weeks, and it bigger and more fragrant than the bought stuff. The bought stuff turns black after a week”, I was informed by one of the staff. The farm to table aspect means the produce is usable for longer.
Mint from Andrew’s Vegepod is provided to B3 Café at SMU. You can smell it from here!
SMU Grow was the brain child of Bernie, so to was a pleasure to meet her. With many great initiatives, including the ‘Save the Uglies’ market the day of my visit, the showstopper was most certainly the open community garden on Stamford Road, right outside the SMU School of Accountancy. If you had your head buried in your smart phone as you walked past, you might not notice it. The garden blends in with the naturally with the urban landscape, but once you realise it is there you can’t help but be very impressed. And it is not caged off like other community gardens – no; SMU Grow want you to interact and become part of the fixture.
A true community garden, accessible right from the street
Bernie and Victor we very welcoming to their SMU Grow community garden. It was amazing to see what was there in such a busy urban setting (Stamford Road)
Wasting food for its looks… what a waste. SMU Grow’s ‘Save the Uglies’ initiative gives the uglies another chance
Andrew Tam loves a good mojito, so needs a stable supply of fresh organic mint. When Vegepod met Andrew at the Singapore Garden Festival, we saw the spark of a budding urban farmer. Andrew was really interested to see how the self-watering features of the Vegepod might enable him to overcome the main stumbling block he had encountered in his efforts to grow edibles himself. Now, he says, even his wife has caught the bug and they are testing new edibles which they can be confident of successfully growing themselves.
It’s actually mint that bought the Vegepod to Singapore originally. Having tried unsuccessfully to sustain herb plants at home with busy travel schedules, we found our plants are easily stressed in the Singapore climate. Our plants wilted on a daily basis and by the time we returned home looked nothing of their former glory, and needed to be replaced. And it was always mint that we would try to persevere with. Mint for drinks, cocktails, salads and garnishes. Fragrant mint has so many uses.
Andrew and I connected through mint and Vegepod. I asked Andrew a few questions about his motivations and his Vegepod.
Why is urban farming important to you?
Having an alumni cafe on campus, we thought it would be a great idea to embark on an ecosystem project where staff of the cafe can come together as a community and work on this project. The best reward is getting to use these organic herbs and vegetables that we grow in some of our cafe dishes.
What are you growing in your Vegepod?
Mint, Cherry Tomato, Chili Padi, Thai Watercress, Brazilian Spinach, Black Seaman Tomato, Sweet Basil, Atomic Grape Cherry Tomato.
What are the features of the Vegepod you have been most pleased with?
It’s easy to set up and fill and not much time spent on maintenance. It’s self-watering, and the cover protects the plants from harsh sun and strong winds. The wheels make it easy to move the Vegepod to anywhere we choose. For us, it is a great display piece when we wheel it down to our cafe to showcase it to customers.
Andrew is one proud Vegepod-er
Vegepod can be thought of as a kit-set community garden. With Vegepod you can scale up your community garden as and when needed. A lot of the common problems faced by growers are addressed with the raised-bed design, wicking system and protective cover. The drainage/reservoir system is perfect for Singapore where in between the torrential downpours are periods of extreme heat. Vegepod creates the perfect low maintenance environment to sustain your plants an increase your success! Available online here (just click on 'Shop') with free delivery.